Fire Captured by Concrete
Volcano Visitor Center opened in Hungary, designed by Foldes Architects
Though Hungary, located in Central Eastern Europe, is not rich in active volcanos, a large expanse of
the country used to be volcanic some 5 million years ago. However, this does help ensure good
quality soil for high level wine production, one of Hungary’s largest export products.
The iconic Kemenes Volcanopark Visitor Center lays 200 km West of the capital Budapest, and has
been realised following a national architectural contest announced in 2009 by the Celldomolk City
Council, when Foldes Architects celebrated their winning entry from the competing 44 projects. The
chosen plot for the center highlighted a flat area between the city of Celldomolk and the 5 million
year old Sag Hill, a former volcano.
‘Instead of the straight translation of the brief, such as creating a volcano shaped museum building,
we wanted to capture the true substance of the location. According to our concept, the raw
materials, the homogeneous grey of the concrete, the lava inspired colour of the corten steel, and
the flue‐like arrangement of the space, deliver the spirit and essence of a volcano’.
Laszlo Foldes, chief designer of Foldes Architects
Upon entering the vast interior of the building, the visitor meets two engaging attractions. At first
sight the vertically open space captures the eye. Five floors above, a small window lets in a beam of
light offering the ‘eruption’ point on the flat roof. On the opposite side, the industrial materials of the
façade appear consistent with the interior: naked concrete walls, dark grey rasin flooring, steel
staircase and corridor, and the corten steel cubes also visible from the outside. The varied height and
location of bridges link the different sizes and positions of the corten boxes. These offer a range of
functions, from screening rooms to interactive installations area, and present the fascinating history
and typology of volcanos. To create a more refined interior, the exhibition texts are situated directly
on the wall without any supporting board.
If you ever wanted to imagine walking through a cubist painting, this building is a great example of
how it might feel to wander into Picasso’s Guernica. While passing below the red cubes, grey walls
and bridges of the building, you have a real opportunity to comprehend the transience and
vulnerability of human existence bracketed by such a formidable force of nature.
Project name: Kemenes Volcanopark Visitor Center
Location: Celldomolk, Vas County, Hungary
Program: Specific museum building to represent the volcanic history of the territory
Type: competition commission
Area/Size: 965 m2
Year: Design: 2011 • Completion: April 2013
Project by: Foldes Architects (http://www.foldesarchitects.hu/ )
Principal Designer: Laszlo Foldes • Project Architect Team: Laszlo Foldes, Csaba Balogh, Orsolya
Tatar‐Gonczi • Collaborating architects: Agnes Deigner, Levente Sirokai, Peter Sonicz • Structural
engineering: Zoltan V. Nagy • Mechanical engineering: Gyorgy Lederer • Electrical engineering: Judit
Balazs • Installation design: Zsolt Vasaros • Contributing volcanologist: David Karatson • Exhibition
concept: Gabor Sz. Szilagyi
Photographs: Tamas Bujnovszky